Pecorino e Vino: A cheese making and wine culinary retreat, 22-27 June 2020

{UPDATE: SOLD OUT!} I’m so excited to be able to announce that for our new culinary workshop next summer∫, we have Cressida McNamara from Pecora Dairy on board to teach cheese making. Together with me and Marco Lami, my sommelier husband, we will be hosting five wonderful days of cheese, wine and Tuscan food in the Val d’Orcia, one of the most breathtaking parts of Tuscany.

We will base ourselves in Pienza, the heart of pecorino cheese country, in a stunning villa with a 360 degree view of the surrounding undulating Tuscan hills, on a highly curated trip to bring you our favourite food and wine experiences in Tuscany, with Cressida’s expertise on the cheesemaking-front. The Val d’Orcia is so beautiful and so characteristically, uniquely Tuscan that the entire valley is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Our days together will consist of our most favourite things: a combination of day trips to beautiful local towns, hands-on cooking classes, visits to a cheese farm (the one that started this blog, actually), eating out at our favourite trattorias, wine tastings and even a visit to a family run flour mill. We will cook together and enjoy aperitivo every night together, but for those who prefer a bit of down time and lounging by the saltwater pool at the gorgeous villa we’ll be calling home, you can choose to do that too and just join in on the eating part! See below for all the details.

Pienzasheep at Podere Il Casale

Pecorino e Vino: Cheesemaking and wine culinary retreat

22-27 June 2020 (5 nights, 5 days)

Pienza, Tuscany

Cost: from 2,200 euro per person


  • 2 cheesemaking sessions with award-winning cheesemaker
  • 2 cooking classes with cookbook author Emiko Davies
  • 2 winery visits with wine tastings and wine pairings with sommelier Marco Lami
  • Visits to a local cheese farm with cheese tastings and a local flour mill
  • Visits with free time to the towns of Pienza, Montalcino and Bagno Vignoni
  • 2 dinners in our favourite restaurants
  • Breakfast, lunch and traditional Tuscan dinners cooked with organic produce
  • Be immersed in a beautiful Tuscan villa with a pool in a UNESCO World Heritage landscape

The itinerary:

Day 1: Late afternoon arrival at the villa and welcome aperitivo, followed by homemade wood-fired pizza dinner.

Day 2: Visit to a family run, organic, ancient grain flour mill to see how their flour and pasta is made, followed by a visit to an organic sheep farm for a tour of the farm and a tasting of their delicious “Pecorino di Pienza” raw milk cheeses. We will also pop in to the gorgeous fifteenth century town of Pienza, a city designed for Pope Pius II as the “ideal Renaissance city” and we will have dinner at a charming local trattoria.

Day 3: After breakfast we will spent the morning on our first cheesemaking session with Cressida. After a light lunch and free time for a dip in the pool or relaxing at the villa, we will have a pasta masterclass with Emiko, and eat what we have made together for dinner. Marco will guide us through a lesson in pairing cheese and wine before dinner.

Day 4: The morning will be spent on our second cheesemaking session with Cressida. Then we will spend the second part of the day visiting Montalcino, the home of Tuscany’s most important wine, where Marco will take us to two very special wineries. We’ll have time for a stroll through the town and aperitivo, of course. Dinner in a wonderful restaurant in Montalcino.

Day 5: After breakfast we will spend the morning making schiacciata and crostata with the stoneground flour from our visit earlier and preparing an easy lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit the ancient spa town of Bagno Vignoni, which has a sixteenth century thermal pool as its central ‘piazza’ and has long been an oasis thanks to the healing waters. We’ll have free time to spend here (maybe some might like to relax at the spa and see why people have been coming to these hot springs since Etruscan times). Dinner will be a classic Tuscan bistecca cooked over coals at the villa for our last night together.

Day 6: Breakfast and goodbyes!

Retreat cost per person: 2,200 euro in double occupancy, single supplement: 600 euro (3 available)

What is included in the price:

  • 5 nights accommodation in a beautiful Tuscan villa
  • day trips and transport included in the itinerary above
  • Winery visits and tastings
  • Cheese tasting and farm visit
  • 5 healthy breakfasts, 4 lunches and 5 dinners, including two meals out at local restaurants
  • all wine during meals
  • Two cooking classes
  • Two cheesemaking classes
  • Cheesemaking equipment to take home
  • Wine tastings and pairings with a certified sommelier

Not included in the cost:

  • Airfare and travel costs to and from the villa
  • Travel insurance

The Villa:

We will be based in the Val d’Orcia, an untouched, beautiful valley lying roughly between Siena and Orvieto with the most picturesque, unique Tuscan landscape. Think cypress trees and undulating wheat fields and every film set in Tuscany that you can think of from The English Patient to Gladiator. The villa that we will call home for the retreat is set on a hill top with 360 degrees views of the valley. Villa Pienza is a beautiful, traditional Tuscan home with 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, air conditioning and wifi. There is an 18 ft (5.5 meter) long salted, heated pool, several communal kitchens, a cosy loungeroom, a pool table, outdoor and indoor dining spaces and a vegetable garden at our disposal.

All the rooms are double but three are available for single occupancy at an additional price of 600 euro (first come first served) — if traveling alone but you would like the doubly occupancy rate and don’t mind getting to know a roommate, we will be happy to pair you in a twin room with someone else wanting to do the same thing. Please quote the room name when booking if you have a preference:

PRINCESS ROOM – on the ground floor, this room is named for the romantic, handmade canopy over the double bed (cannot be made into twins). Ensuite with a huge double head shower. Also available as a single. — BOOKED

SWAN ROOM – this large room upstairs has a super king size bed and a huge hydromassage jacuzzi along with an ensuite with shower. Special for a couple but this can also be made into twins. — BOOKED

SKY ROOM – second bedroom upstairs with beautiful pale blue walls and double bed which can be made into twins, and an ensuite bathroom with double sinks and double shower heads. It shares a communal loungeroom with a pocket terrace with the peach room. — BOOKED

LILLA ROOM – a charming double room with special vintage pieces, this bedroom has an external bathroom with a hydromassage tub and opens onto the dining room on the ground floor. Available as a single at a slightly reduced rate. — BOOKED

OCHRE BEDROOM – an upstairs double room fitted out in neutrals, with an ensuite that has a hydromassage tub. Available also as a single. — BOOKED

PIENZA ROOM – this elegant ground floor room can be a double or twin shared room and has an ensuite bathroom. — BOOKED

To book your place:

We require a deposit of 50% upon booking which you can do directly here; the remaining 50% should be paid by 15 April 2020. When booking, please specify if there is a room you prefer (I will do my best to update the website with those that have already been booked, but the bookings may come hard and fast so please select a second preference too incase your first is unavailable) and whether you would like single occupancy (paying a supplement fee) or double occupancy. If coming with a friend or partner, please let us know so we can match up the bookings otherwise let us know if you are happy to share with any roommate. Also please let us know of any dietary requirements when you book. The booking is non-refundable but if you need to cancel, we can accept someone to take your place. You must have your own travel insurance to participate.

Getting here:

Pienza is in the province of Siena. The closest international airports are Florence, Perugia and Rome. You could rent a car from the airport, Pienza is roughly 80km from Perugia (1 hour drive), 115km from Florence (1 hour and 45 minutes drive) and 190km from Rome (2 1/2 hour drive). The nearest train station if you’re coming from Perugia, Florence or Rome is Chiusi-Chianciano Terme and from there we can organise transfers from the station for arrival and departure (about 36km, a 45 minute drive) or there are several local busses. For train schedules check the Trenitalia website.

Tuscany in June:

Expect hot weather! Tuscany in late June is very warm with long, sunlit days and warm, breezy evenings. We will do our best to ensure everyone is comfortable with the heat – there will be breaks at the hottest time of the day (for a dip in the pool or a rest in your air-conditioned room), cool drinks and fresh meals suited to the warm weather. We encourage you to dress comfortably for the heat and wear comfortable shoes for day trips and farm visits – and don’t forget your swimmers!

Your hosts:

Cressida McNamara is an award-winning cheese maker from the Southern Highlands of NSW in Australia, who creates raw artisan ewe’s milk cheeses alongside her husband, Michael at Pecora Dairy.  The milk from their own flock of East Friesian sheep create cheeses which express the unique flavours of the terroir and the landscape of the farm. Theirs is the first cheesery in Australia to make raw milk cheese, which recently won the coveted national Delicious Produce Awards trophy (Photo above by Flore Vallery-Radot).

Emiko Davies is an Australian-born cookbook author who has called Florence home for over a decade. She was a restaurant critic for The Good Food Guide in Australia for several years and has written about Tuscan traditions and Italian cuisine on this blog since 2010 as well as for publications such as Saveur, The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveler, Gourmet Traveller and Corriere della Sera, to name a few. She has written three cookbooks on regional Tuscan cuisine. Photo above by Hana Davies.

Marco Lami, born and bred in Tuscany, is a certified sommelier and has worked with Australia’s top chefs, including Neil Perry at Rosetta, George Calombaris at The Press Club and Andrew McConnell at The Builder’s Arms. He was the head sommelier at Michelin-starred Il Pellicano and is currently the sommelier at Il Palagio at Florence’s Four Seasons Hotel.

Things to note:

The  retreat will take place with a minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 participants. If we do not reach the minimum, the retreat will be cancelled and you will be refunded 100%. The itinerary is a guide; we reserve the right to make changes in case of bad weather or unforeseen circumstances where we may need to change the order of activities or replace some of the activities with something equally wonderful.

Retreat cost per person: 2,200 euro in double occupancy (single supplement: 600 euro) 

To book now with your deposit click here or email:

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